Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Catching up and Take Time Tuesday #7

It has been a crazy, crazy, crazy few weeks for me.  So crazy that I don't know where my head has been for much of the time. 

Sadly, my blog focus has taken an enormous backseat while I attempt to catch my own head.  But, I will be working my way through an enormous catch-up effort over the next week or two.  YEAH!!!

As luck would have it, today is Take Time Tuesday!  What am I grateful for this week?
  • My friends Erica G. and Nhan, who both provided very special help to me this past week on some personal pursuits.
  • Adam, as always, for being my secret weapon from a collective intelligence standpoint.
  • The power of intuition, prayer, positivity, and knowing - just knowing - certain things when it matters the most.
  • Good humor. 

  • OK, not just the Good Humor ice cream brand.  (Although, I am certainly grateful for ice cream, too).  I am talking about true good humor - because laughter makes almost all things better.  It helps me to remember that we each have complete control over how seriously or not seriously to take ourselves.
  • I almost always wear grey or black bottoms when I run or work out - whether it be in the form of shorts, capris, tights, or (more recently) skirts.  In an attempt to break this pattern, I recently bought a fun white running skirt.  Yes, anytime I wear anything white I become a magnet for all spillages, splashes, and explosions of substances with hues spanning the entire rainbow.  And yes, I may end up looking like a misplaced tennis player.  But you have to live dangerously at some point or other, right?

I think I exhibit this same facial expression at the end of all of my runs. 
Even without keeping my eye on the ball.

  • And finally - going a little nuts and running not just two, but THREE consecutive days last week (I usually never run on consecutive days, period)... without my knee straps... and with almost no pain!  This has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me from a training standpoint.  I still plan to wear my knee straps for long runs, but it feels so invigorating to know that I can at least do short runs without them.

Live Half Full 

I am also very excited about some weekend plans I've got coming up.  I've mentioned in the past that Adam and I got married in St. Joseph, Michigan.  The entire SW Michigan area is very special to me, in general.

The St. Joseph lighthouse

For that upcoming weekend, Adam and I will be staying in South Haven, Michigan (one of my favorite towns along the coast).  That Friday night, I'll be running a local race that I just found out about a few weeks ago: the Fenn Valley Winery 5K Frolic in the Vineyards.  The 5K includes a trail race, dinner, beverages, and a live concert at the Fenn Valley Winery vineyards.  The Fenn Valley Wine Festival also takes place the following day.  I'm not a huge wine drinker, but I do enjoy dabbling a bit. 

It'll be awesome to make Michigan #4 on my list of states that I've raced in, especially in a smaller, low-key race like this one (I don't think that it's chip-timed).  I am also looking forward to running my first-ever trail race amidst such gorgeous scenery.  It's going to be a blast!!!

Running through scenery like this?  Sign me up!!!

Cheers to the unofficial start of summertime to all!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Take Time Tuesday #6 and NHL second-round playoff predictions

I need a vacation.  I desperately need to hit the reset button and reboot myself.

In this week's edition of Take Time Tuesday, I continue to be so grateful for all of my friends and family who unconditionally believe in me, support me, and always want the best for me. 

From the family side, Adam always gets a lot of mention.  Additionally, I am especially grateful for all three sets of my parents.  This week, very special mentions go out to my mom as well as to Adam's mom and Adam's dad.

From the friends side, very special mentions go out this week to two of my amazing friends.  First, my friend, Vanitha:

This is a old picture of Vanitha and me in Santiago, Chile, hanging out with some of the locals.  =)

Then, my friend, Ed:

This is another old picture of (from L to R): me, Myhien, Soo, and Elizabeth in the front row.  Ed is the photobomber in the background.  =)

The folks I've mentioned here are scattered from Maryland to Pittsburgh to Atlanta to Long Beach.  I am incredibly grateful that time and distance do not matter with any of them.

Live Half Full

OK!  Let's talk NHL second-round playoff predictions.  Given that the first round just ended last night, I am rushed in writing my predictions before the second round starts tonight!  By the way, I am certainly no hockey expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I am proud to say that I went 7-1 overall in my first-round predictions.  (Adam went 8-0!)


#1 Chicago Blackhawks vs #7 Detroit Red Wings
I am very excited for this final match-up between these two long-time Original Six archrivals before Detroit moves to the Eastern Conference next year.  It is going to be a great series, with both of these teams being all-around talented, skillful, puck-possession clubs. 

Detroit just came off a tough series with Anaheim, and their team is heavily experienced but also considered to be getting towards their latter years.  The Hawks are coming off a long break in action after quickly ending their first-round series against the Wild.  While the rest is good for the Hawks, you do worry about potential losses in momentum. 

In the end, both teams are stacked but the Hawks outstack the Wings in every category.  And no, I'm not biased or anything.  Ever.

Prediction: Hawks in 5

#5 Los Angeles Kings vs #6 San Jose Sharks
This is a tough one for me.  A really, really tough one. 

San Jose is coming off of a stunning sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, so they've got winning momentum offset by a very long break in games.  However, the Sharks as a team can be very hot or cold.  They also have a history of not being able to make it very far in the playoffs.   However, the Sharks do have my favorite goaltender of all time, former Blackhawk Antti Niemi. 

Comparatively, Los Angeles took a beating in their brutally physical first-round series against the St. Louis Blues in the first-round.  During the regular season they were dealing with injury aftereffects on goalie Jonathan Quick.  The Stanley Cup hangover effect may eventually manifest itself on the Kings, too. 

I'm not a betting woman, but:

Prediction: Sharks in 6


Check out this NHL Fan Map, which breaks down hockey fans geographically by team.  This is obviously an older map, since the Atlanta Thrashers have since moved to Winnipeg and become the Jets.  Even so, the map is pretty cool, eh? 

NOTE: Geographic size definitely does not equate to fan intensity.


#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs #7 Ottawa Senators
Pittsburgh had some scary moments in their first round series against the New York Islanders.  They were very fortunate to pull through and they need to make some changes if they want to keep winning.  The Penguins were very hot and cold in the first round, and it seemed like they took a step back when Sidney Crosby returned from injury.  Some questions lie on the table with regards to Pens goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun and who will get the nod in goal.  Unfortunately it's not a good time to be experimenting.  However, I fully expect that the Penguins will get back to their usual stellar form in the second-round.

I don't know much about Ottawa.  However, I was impressed by how well they've managed to keep it together despite injuries to some very key players over the course of the season.  From what I saw, the Senators looked strong in their first round against the Montreal Canadiens.  In the end, though, I think the Penguins easily outmatch the Senators on natural talent.

Prediction: Pens in 6

#4 Boston Bruins vs #6 New York Rangers
Talk about scary moments, Boston had some heart-attack inducing moments in their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Boston had a 3 games to 1 lead in the series, only to end up in game 7 down three goals with ten minutes left in regulation.  How they were able to come back and tie it up, and then eventually win the game and the series in overtime?  It is beyond me.  You have to give Boston a ton of credit for their resilience.  The question is, can they keep it up against a strong, physical team like the New York Rangers with stellar goaltending in Henrik Lundqvist?

As with the Hawks/Wings, the Bruins and Rangers have a long and storied history as Original 6 rivals.  It is going to be fun to see how this one shakes out.  I expect it will be a tough, physical, low-scoring series which will ardently display the talent of each team's goaltenders.  This is another tough decision, but I'm going with:

Prediction: Rangers in 7

And since no NHL playoff prediction blog from me would be complete without a great Blackhawks picture, here is one of my favorites:

Go Blackhawks!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The glass is half full

We've all heard those expressions about building strength and character in the face of adversity.  E.g.:
  • Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger
  • Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted
  • Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue
I will be the first to admit that it's very easy and therapeutic to complain about things.  Negativity is very commanding and can be really rampant, breeding even more negativity.  Flashback to high school physics class where Isaac Newton said that every action has a reaction.

Under Newton's theory, this would obviously be true for both positive and negative actions, as well as neutral actions and everything in between.  With that in mind, I am making a conscious effort to be more positive.  For example, instead of saying:

"I hate doing speedwork because it is exhausting, hard, and takes forever to show any results.  Why do I even bother?"

I'm trying to condition myself to say something more along the lines of:

"I am looking forward to how good I will feel after I finish my speedwork.  Even mild speedwork is better than nothing!"

I am trying to apply this way of thinking to every aspect of my life - not just running.  It is obviously a change that takes some time to solidify.  But I am hopeful that changing my way of thinking will reverberate more positivity into my life in general.  (Way to put into practice what I just preached there, eh?  =) )

On a very quick side note - I felt really good after the Wisconsin Half Marathon last weekend and had great training runs on both Tuesday and Thursday last week.  I had said here that I did not want to run another marathon this year.  However, I felt so good this past week that I started thinking that maybe I did want to go for it again this year after all.  I started pondering the possibility of getting a post-close entry to the Chicago Marathon by fundraising for one of my favorite charities.  I also started toying with the idea of other local fall marathons, like the Prairie State Marathon or the Milwaukee Marathon.

Then, I went for my weekend long run yesterday.  I was excited to knock out an easy 10-miler, or at least a good stepback-week run of 5 or 6 miles.  But, that saying up top about how experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted?  Let's just say that I got a LOT of experience yesterday while running.

During the run, I was feeling parched and dehydrated less than a mile in, had overdressed for the weather, and was going much more slowly than my effort would have dictated.  However, instead of doing what most normal, reasonable people would do (turn around, go back home, get some water, and shed some clothing layers), I stubbornly kept going. 

After four miles, I had had it.  Even after getting some water, I didn't feel like going any further and I didn't feel like pushing myself.  So I called it quits for the day.  Way to bring myself back down to earth.  I had forgotten how bad the bad runs can feel - even if you know exactly why they didn't go well.

Now, I am so very happy that I have not signed up for any marathons this year. 

How's that for positive thinking?!?!?  =)

Friday, May 10, 2013

When it races, it pours

TGIF, everyone.  So much race action and other physical challenge going on, where to begin?
  • I finally gave in and registered for the Home Team Charity Run 10K, which takes place on July 14.  It's a bit pricey for a 10K, but I love my Blackhawks too much to not run this race.  On that note, I've been looking everywhere for a Blackhawks logo technical shirt, and have had a very difficult time finding any.  However, this race provides one.  It will be the first time I've ever done a race where I really care about the shirt!


  • I've got two consecutive Thursday-night races lined up in July, the Bastille Day 8K on July 11 and the Esprit de She 10K on July 18.  Both have absolutely fabulous festivities afterwards.  I am a huge fan of evening races and it'll be awesome to enjoy gorgeous Chicago summer nights at these two races!

  • I'm already signed up for the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon on July 21.  So I'll just save you the trouble of looking at the calendar and doing the math: I have a total of four races lined up within a 2-week period.  Yes, this is crazy for me.  But I definitely plan to run at least two, if not three, if not all of these races purely for ambience and fun.  (July in Chicago is not usually the best time to be trying to set any PRs, anyways.) 
  • With all of these races coming up, I might even take the plunge and wear a race costume for the first time ever.  Although, it's certainly challenging enough for me to run in running clothes, let alone a costume.  So we'll see.  At the moment, any costume ideas are still very much in the incubation stage.  Although, I can GUARANTEE that I won't be wearing anything like this.  EVER.

  • I signed up for the Run For Boston Virtual 5K.  I run 5K or more at least three times per week, so I figured this was well worth the cause and the virtual-race flexibility.  Not to mention that Marcia is hosting a giveaway for registrants/donors.  She's got some amazing prizes lined up and I am feeling lucky!
  • I've always wanted to try stand-up paddle boarding!  Thanks to Erica, I heard about some discounted lessons that are being offered, so I'll be taking a class soon with Erin and Xaarlin.  I am really excited!  ("Paddle up, dude!")
It looks so easy!  But I have learned from experience that many things are much more difficult than they appear...
  • Erin takes trapeze lessons, which I think is the coolest thing ever.  She asked if anyone wanted to come check it out with her.  Of course I took her up on the offer!  I'll be going to my first-ever trapeze class in a few weeks.  Flashback to playing on the jungle gym when I was in grade school.  (OK, not really.  But they better get that safety net tightened up!  =D )

Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Take Time Tuesday #5

Happy Tuesday to all, and time for another edition of Take Time Tuesday!

Live Half Full

Today, I am grateful for:
  • A wonderful husband, friends, and family who support me unconditionally, as always.
  • The incredible Chicago Running Blogger network and all of my amazing blogger friends, all of whom I've so enjoyed getting to know over time, and who are always there with words of encouragement and advice.
  • Being so used to waking up early now that getting up at 5:45 AM for a race or run is no longer a big deal (or at least is a less big deal than it used to be)
Source: Harvard Business Review (July-August 2010) pg. 31
(This seems surprisingly tilted towards morning people...?)

  • Having a terrific time at the Wisconsin Half Marathon this past weekend and getting to spend some great times with Katie, Lauren, Kayla, Sierra, and Kim; and getting to catch up with Erin a bit during packet pickup.
  • Seeing visible progress in my training.  These days I am able to do a 2-minute plank with reasonable ease - which used to be incomprehensible to me!
  • A four-week period now without any races to focus on, thus giving me the opportunity to let loose a little bit with my training.
  • Having so much fun experimenting with fashion and really defining my own style over the last few months, thanks to the inspirations of Erin.
  • Frozen deep-dish pizza.  Available in a pinch when the craving hits, which it did over the weekend, big-time.  Let's call it PREPS (post-race eating pizza syndrome).

Monday, May 6, 2013

My running shoe collection

Ahhh, my running shoe collection, and also the subject of this week's Runner Photo Challenge.  Running shoes are a big weakness for me because I love experimenting with different gear in general, plus different styles and colors.  I've always said that I am never more motivated to go running than when I have a new pair of running shoes that I want to take for an inaugural run!

Bottom row from L to R:
  • Asics Gel Cumulus 13 - 105 miles.  These are my workhorse shoes and the ones that were recommended for me at my first-ever professional running shoe fitting.  The pair pictured is actually my second pair of them - I retired an identical pair last fall.  (I made a late decision to wear this shoe at the Chicago Marathon last year.  Unfortunately my first pair had too many miles on them when I made the decision, so Kim very graciously helped me quickly obtain a second pair via her Amazon Prime account.)  I wear them for long runs and races that are 10 miles or longer. 
  • Brooks Glycerin 8 - 91 miles.  I got these on ridiculous sale from ZB Sports after hearing countless great things about Brooks shoes.  They are pretty, but to be honest they are not supportive enough for me.  I tried using them on a few long runs last year and wasn't thrilled.  As a result, these shoes are now generally relegated for shorter runs between 3-6 miles.  I usually retire my running shoes at around 300 miles, but this pair is probably destined for an earlier retirement.
  • Mizuno Wave Rider 15 - 54 miles.  I got a great deal on these from Amazon after hearing rave reviews on the Wave Rider series in general.  I do like them, but I'd like to get my shoe collection down to three pairs.  Therefore, in an attempt to get some of the other higher-mileage pairs to retirement first, I'm not wearing these very much right now.
  • Saucony Pro Grid Kinvara 2 - 53 miles.  My first foray into a more minimalist shoe.  I wasn't sure how I would like them since I do like some support when I run, but they are great.  I didn't wear them much over the winter since they are so light.  But now that the weather is nice I want to wear them once a week for shorter runs or speedwork.  I have had what appears to be the initial stages of plantar fasciitis, and I've also heard that minimalist shoes can help to counter it.  Here is hoping these shoes will make a difference!
Top row from L to R:
  • Mizuno Wave Rider 16 - brand new.  I purchased these based on a shoe fitting that I got while attending a Chicago Running Blogger party at Road Runner Sports.  I really don't need them and I have considered returning them several times.  But I absolutely love the red color - and that is making it hard for me to part with them.  Sigh.
  • Saucony Pro Grid Kinvara 2 - brand new.  I liked my purple pair of Kinvaras so much that I got a second pair of Kinvaras on clearance in the most fabulously obnoxious color that they come in.

I most certainly don't need this many pairs of running shoes, considering the mileage that I run.  At my current mileage pace, it would take me a good three years to get through all of these pairs of shoes!  So the morale of the story is that I really, really, REALLY need to stop buying more running shoes.  At least this year.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wisconsin Half Marathon Race Recap

When it comes to races, there are a few themes that resonate so deeply with my tastes that they would make any race under those themes a must-do for me.  This includes anything Blackhawks related (e.g. the Home Team Charity Run and the Mad Dash to Madison), anything food/cooking-related and/or Disney (e.g. the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon), and anything that goes towards the cause of animal shelters (e.g., the PAWS Run for Their Lives). 

Today, thanks to the Wisconsin Half Marathon, I added another theme to that list: CHEESE!

I grew up in the far north suburbs of Chicago, right on the Wisconsin border - and I've often said that I think I landed on the wrong side of the border because I love cheese so much.  Seriously - how did I go this long without running a cheese-themed race?  We're talking a race that has:
  • Cheese samples at both packet pickup as well as the finish line party
  • Cheese inside the runner post-run refreshment bags
  • A cheese-themed starting corral
  • The slogan that "We're on a mission from gouda"
  • Signs along the course that say things like, "The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese"
  • A race shirt that says "Say cheese" on the back

Moving away from the cheese discussion for a moment (albeit reluctantly).  My friend Katie, who lives in Kenosha about 10 minutes away from the start line, was so kind to let me stay at her place the night before (thanks again, Katie!)  We met up with Lauren, Kayla, and Sierra for a yummy Italian dinner.  (I don't really feel the need to carbo-load for races anymore but I still stuffed myself with way too much pasta.)  Then, Katie and I went back to her house to watch the Blackhawks game.  (Unfortunately it was an 8:30 PM puck drop and I had intended to be in bed by 10:00 or 10:30 at the latest.  Not surprisingly, though, I got immersed in the Hawks game and didn't get to bed until about 11:30.  Oops.)

If they had compression socks like this, I'd be the very first customer.
Alas, I digress.

The weather forecasts for this morning had been predicting anywhere from temps in the low 40s to the low 60s, with/without rain and wind.  This posed a conundrum in terms of what to wear, but the weather ended up being nearly perfect by my standards.

During the race I focused on not starting too quickly, running the course tangents, and enjoying the energy of my fellow runners and spectators.  There were about 3,300 runners, so the streets never felt too crowded.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the course, which ran through downtown Kenosha, ornate residential neighborhoods, and along the Wisconsin lakefront.   

Katie was an amazing spectator - I saw her at miles 3, 6, 9, and at the finish line.  She took some fantastic photos along the course, too.  Check out some of the costumes she saw:

Katie said that people were ringing cow bells here, and this runner yelled, "More me bell!"

Check out the guy on the right who is running in a full business suit (I thought he was a race official when I first saw him).  That suit must have seemed like a good idea for the first mile or so.  I wonder if he lost a bet or something?

There's Waldo!

Katie took some nice photos of me along the course, too.  Here's me in a good, normal-looking runner pose:

... followed by the obligatory race photo body spasm:

In terms of race performance, I did not push myself extremely hard.  I had not trained as much as I wanted to - my longest training run prior to today was only 10 miles.  I am also still battling a bit of a runny nose and some minor coughing left over from last week's cold.  As a result of taking things easier, the distance today actually didn't feel too difficult (during half marathons I am usually dying by mile 11).  It felt good to finish feeling strong, but it is also definitely a sign that I took things easier than I could have.

Here's a couple pictures of me approaching the finish line:

My chip time was 2:25:07.  In retrospect, I do wish that I had put forth a harder effort.  But on the bright side, it felt like it took much less effort to achieve this time than it would have a year ago, especially without a lot of training this year.  So that is something to be happy about.

Here's a picture of Katie and me after the finish:

Katie and I were trying to figure out what she could wear to make herself stand out amongst all the spectators.  She offered to wear a Chicago Cubs hat.  But, as she herself so diligently noted, I picked a hat from her collection that more directly suited my own preferences. ;-)

Here's one of (from L to R) Lauren, me, Kayla, and Sierra:

Huge congratulations go out to Sierra for completing her first marathon - and running a killer time, at that!

Here's the medal.  I love how cute and quirky it is!  Notice how it even has a bottle opener on its right side.  I'm not a beer drinker but you have to appreciate the nod to Wisconsin specialties.  =D

All in all, I loved this race.  Kim had had the highest recommendations for this race, having done it five years in a row, and I can certainly see why.  It is incredibly affordable, well-organized, and down to earth, with wonderfully easy logistics, a GORGEOUS course along the Wisconsin lakefront, and a great medal and shirt.  This is by far my favorite of the six different half marathons I've ever run to date!  I definitely plan to be back in the future.

My next race: the Chicago 13.1 Marathon on June 8.